Healthier apricot carrot cake

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Cake with vegetables sounds healthy, but is usually far from it. This version lightens up the traditional recipe with dried apricots, applesauce, and coconut sugar; reduces the fat and swaps in coconut oil; and swaps out half of the white flour for whole wheat. Add in walnuts for Omega-3s (or leave them out to make this school safe) and you have a healthier option for your Easter table that’s equally delicious and showstopping.

Take me to the cake!

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I’m still struggling with the eternal question: Is it worth it to healthify desserts? If my kid factors into the equation, then yes. He’s often satisfied with a “healthy” sweet. I, on the other hand, really wanted a doughnut for breakfast and no amount of healthy treats was going to cut it.

However! If there’s a recipe ripe for healthifying, a dessert starring a vegetable is it.

I started recipe testing this cake by dumping everything into a bowl and calling it a day. The results were delicious, but dense, so I decided to do as others have done and whip the eggs and sugar at the start to make the crumb a bit lighter. Often, cake directions tell you to cream butter and sugar / butter and eggs / sugar and eggs (as in this case) until they’re “light and fluffy.” Unfortunately, the coconut sugar is so dark that you’ll never really achieve this. What you want instead is just to aerate the eggs, sugar, and other liquids. Don’t worry about it too much, just make sure that you see lots of bubbles once all of the liquid is combined.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Alone, this cake is delicious, but tastes like a muffin or a quick bread, not a cake. But slathered in cream cheese frosting, this is a CAKE.

Can I tell you a secret about making the frosting? I don’t measure the sugar. You heard that: I don’t measure the sugar. I mix in a couple of large spoonfuls and then add more to taste. I like a frosting that isn’t too sweet and the beauty of cream cheese frosting is the tang, which gets totally masked by too much sugar.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Apricot carrot cake

Adapted from Bake from Scratch and Natasha’s Kitchen

Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (about 45 minutes of active time, including frosting the cake)
Yield: 8 GIANT slices, 10-12 normal slices

1 cup apricots, chopped
1 Tbsp flour (AP or Whole Wheat)
4 eggs
1 cup coconut sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour (pastry or white whole wheat are also great)
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
12 oz carrots; trimmed, peeled, and shredded (about 3 cups, lightly packed shredded carrots)
1 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans, or a 12-cup muffin tin liberally with melted coconut oil or cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, chop the apricots and toss with 1 Tbsp of flour (either AP or whole wheat). Set aside.

Toast your walnuts in the preheating oven, keeping an eye to ensure that they don’t burn while you continue prepping your other ingredients. Set aside.

Trim, peel, and shred your carrots. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 3 minutes on a medium high setting (or on high if your hand mixer isn’t very strong). The eggs won’t get lighter in color because the coconut sugar is quite dark, but you will see lots of little air bubbles formed and the volume of the liquid should increase.

Reduce the speed of your mixer to low (medium-low for a hand mixer) and slowly add the oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract.

Sift the dry ingredients together into the wet ingredients. Fold until just combined and no lumps remain.

Fold in the carrots, apricots, and toasted walnuts (if using).

Pour half of the mixture into each cake pan (or, fill each muffin cup until about 2/3 full).

Bake, rotating halfway through, for 20-23 minutes for the cakes or 15-18 minutes for the muffins. You want the cakes to be springy when touched and for a tester to come out with a few crumbs or clean.

Let the cake cool entirely before icing.


Cream cheese frosting
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to taste

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer or your hand mixer, combine and whip the butter and cream cheese on high for 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and whip on medium to combine.

Add the powdered sugar a few Tbsp at a time and SLOWLY whip the sugar into the rest of the mixture on low (otherwise you’ll have powdered sugar all over your kitchen). Once the initial amount of powdered sugar is incorporated, add more, a few Tbsp at a time, to taste. When all of the sugar you want is incorporated, turn the mixer back to high and whip for 3-4 more minutes.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes



Chocolate hummus

Chocolate hummus!

Even the best intentioned parents fall into bad habits when it comes to toddlers and food. I swore we would never make M a separate dinner from ours and yet, here we are. I also swore that I would never cave to bedtime snack requests, but…you guessed it.

Look, we have a lot of good habits and we course correct pretty fast when we realize that we’re off track. And we try not to sweat it when things change or don’t work around mealtimes. But f*&$@#ing hell is it frustrating.

While M isn’t a huge snacker between meals, he would happily eat all “snack” food for his meals. For lunch, I’m more okay with packing him a collection of finger foods (hard-boiled egg, veggies and hummus, fruit, mini muffins, etc), but for dinner, it’s hard for me to swallow guacamole and chips as his main course (pun intended).

I mean, he has an entire adolescence to make bad food choices, so we have to get some goodness in while we can, right?

All this to say, we’re struggling with food right now. One strategy we’re implementing is trying to ensure that M’s whole day is rounded out with good stuff so that one bad meal isn’t a big deal.

Chickpeas, dates, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
Blend until really smooth for a protein-packed after school snack.

I started making my own chocolate hummus after being introduced to this magical concoction (seriously, how did I not know that chocolate hummus existed until about 2 months ago?) at my book club.

Chocolate hummus: free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, and all animal products. Basically, the perfect after-school snack.

This sweet dip is mostly chickpeas, which have a ton of protein and fiber, plus some natural sweeteners and a couple of spices. It takes about 15 minutes to make and most of that time is spent waiting for water to boil. This snack is also free of nuts, gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and any animal products.

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A couple of notes:
- Soak 4 dates, though you may not need them all. This dip tends to get sweeter as it sits in the fridge, so be careful about adding all four dates up front.
- If the dip doesn’t taste sweet enough after two dates, try adding another pinch of salt. The salt really brings out the sweetness and the chocolate, so you may not need additional sweetener.

Chick peas, dates, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

Chocolate hummus

1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained |
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup
2-4 dates, soaked in boiling water for 5-10 minutes
1/8 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp vanilla extract

Boil some water and pour over 4 dates. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse your chickpeas and pour them onto a paper towel. Dry them lightly. Add to a food processor.

Measure the other ingredients and add to the food processor. When the dates are soft, add them to the other ingredients and blend until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 1.5 cups or about 14.5 ounces

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Chocolate hummus!

Possibly the perfect lunchbox treat or after-school snack.

Granola cups

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So, lunch at school. Do your kids actually eat it? M's eating is hit or miss. Though I pack his favorites, the school lunchroom seems to render them inedible. Fancying things up with cookie cutters and toothpicks seems to increase his interest. However, I'm pretty sure that the amount of effort I put into his lunches is inversely proportional to how much of it he actually eats.

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To that end, here is a SUPER SUPER easy way to get some whole grains into your kiddos. Fill them with yogurt, fruit and veggie purees, sun butter, or whatever strikes your fancy. AND, these are so quick, require one bowl, and keep well in the fridge or freezer. So if your kids don't eat them, you'll feel less like raging at the sky!

I've experimented a lot with granola cups. We made them for the first time in a kids' cooking class and they were tasty, albeit a little bland. They also lost their crispiness almost immediately. I added some egg whites and a little healthy fat, which helped. But really, the millet is the key here to a crispy texture. So get thee to Whole Foods and pick up some millet. You won't regret it.

I used a combo of regular oats (not quick oats!) and quinoa flakes for extra protein, but feel free to use 2 cups of regular oats if you don't have or don't want to have quinoa flakes (you can also snag these at Whole Foods or a health food store in the cereal aisle).

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Granola cups

1½ cups rolled oats
½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup millet
½ cup + 2 Tbsp honey
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a 12-cup cupcake tin by spraying or wiping it with coconut or olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, quinoa flakes, millet, honey, whipped egg whites, salt, and cinnamon and mix well.

Add two heaping tablespoons of the mixture to each cup, making sure to leave some in the bowl for filling in holes as needed. (So, start out filling 9 of the 12 cups and then fill in the rest with whatever you have left in the bowl.) Using the back of the spoon, press the mixture gently up the sides of the cups. If any holes appear while you're smoothing out the sides and bottom, add more of the oat mixture.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes until the cups start to brown at the edges.

Yield: 9-11 cups

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Whole 30 snacks and a recap

Strawberry and cherry energy bites | Me & The Moose. Dried fruit and raw nuts combine to make an easy and filling snack. #meandthemoose #energybites #snacks #snackrecipes #whole30 #whole30recipes #almonds

Today is the day! Last day of my Whole 30! This was my hardest round of Whole 30 eating so far. I blame world events for my extreme wine desire throughout the month. I'm sure the plan's founders would blame my "sugar dragons" and suggest that I stay the course and keep Whole 30ing until I truly didn't want it anymore, but...that's not happening. Mostly because it already happened. I caved a few days ago. I think that, as much as January is a great time to clean up your eating, perhaps this January was an exception.

No matter, I made it for most of the month and I feel pretty good, all things considered. Something I did out of some desperation was to pick a meal every day and make it a little special. This happened at breakfast with extra herbs and salmon roe. And often, a little extra effort with a snack made a difference to my motivation later in the day. Here are some of the "treats" that got me through the winter of my discontent and ALL are toddler-approved. There was a day last week when M refused anything other than the kale smoothie below and homemade pickles.

Strawberry and cherry energy bites | Me & The Moose. Dried fruit and raw nuts combine to make an easy and filling snack. #meandthemoose #energybites #snacks #snackrecipes #whole30 #whole30recipes #almonds

Strawberry and Cherry energy bites

1/2 cup dried strawberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 Tbsp water

Put everything in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency, adding 1 Tbsp of water if needed to bring everything together.

Recipe notes: Give your dates a rough chop because I've never had a batch of "pitted" dates without any leftover whole pits or pit shrapnel. Nuts.com is the only place I've found dried strawberries that were Whole 30 compliant, but Trader Joe's carries dried cherries and dates without added sugar.

Yield: About 16, 2-3 bite snacks

 

Deviled eggs | Me & The Moose. These deviled eggs provide a tasty hit of salt and protein to satisfy snack cravings. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #deviledeggs #snacks #snackrecipes

Deviled eggs

2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tsp avocado oil mayo
1 tsp dijon mustard
pinch paprika
s/p
pickles, salmon roe, capers, olives, leftover bacon

Hard-boil your eggs. I like to use Martha's method and find that it leads to a very clean peel. However, I almost never peel the eggs right after cooking them. If making these for a larger crowd or just care a lot about aesthetics, hard boil your eggs one day in advance and store in the fridge. Peel cold.

Slice your eggs in half length-wise and pop the yolks into a bowl. Add the mayo, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper and mash with a fork. Add back to the egg whites and top with your choice of accoutrements.

Yield: 1-2 servings, depending on your hunger level

Persimmons with coconut cream and pepitas | Me & The Moose. Dress up your fruit with some good fat from coconut cream and some crunch from pepitas. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #persimmons #snacks #snackrecipes

Persimmon with coconut cream and pepitas

1 fuyu persimmon, peeled and sliced
2 tsp coconut cream
2 Tbsp pepitas, roasted
pinch cinnamon

Peel and slice your persimmon. I like to toast a bunch of pepitas ahead of time and store them at room temperature, but if you don't have any on hand, roast in the oven or toaster oven at 350 for about 5 minutes or until they begin to smell nutty. Add the pepitas, coconut cream, and cinnamon. Eat immediately.

Yield: one serving
 

Kale smoothie | Me & The Moose. This smoothie is a bit of a whole30 cheat, but a good way to sip on some extra veggies and prolong that snack. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #kalesmoothie #snacks #snackrecipes #smoothierecipes

Kale smoothie

Adapted from Minimalist Baker
1 cup kale, packed
1 cup frozen peaches
1 apple
1/2 inch piece of peeled ginger (about the size of your thumbnail)
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp water

Add everything to the blender and process until smooth.

Yield: 1 adult smoothie and 1 toddler smoothie, or 1 very large adult smoothie, or 2 toddler smoothies
 

Bananas with cardamom and pistachios | Me & The Moose. Dress up your fruit with some nuts and coconut cream for more protein and fat to keep you full. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #bananas #snacks #snackrecipes #coconutcream #pistachios

Bananas with cardamom and pistachio

1 banana
1 tsp coconut cream
1 Tbsp shelled pistachios
pinch cardamom
pinch sea salt

Slice or mash a banana and add the coconut cream, pistachios, cardamom, and salt. Eat.

Yield: 1 serving

 

Babaganoush | Me & The Moose. What’s better than a dip that’s mostly veggies? #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #babaganoush #snacks #snackrecipes #diprecipes

Babaganoush

I like Epicurious's recipe, but I halve the amounts, use the smallest Japanese eggplants I can find so that I can use the whole thing (peel and seeds included), add 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, and add 1 Tbsp of avocado oil mayo for some added creaminess.

Yield: about 2 cups

Happy snacking!